I gained many important, life-changing benefits from my college education, but perhaps the most significant thing that I took with me after graduation was a friendship. I became friends with one of my college roommates long before the acronym BFF was popular…but that is exactly what she became. Her friendship came with the bonus of getting to know her family. Barb’s family is one of those that gathers together every Sunday afternoon to share a meal. And more often than not, Lena’s meatballs are on the table.
Barb’s mother, Lena, was the closest I ever got to having an Italian grandmother. (And doesn’t everyone who does not have one, wish that they did?) I never got to know Lena as well as I would have liked to, but in the small windows of time that I did spend with her, I always got the sense that she knew what was important in life. She had that calm, reassuring manner that comes with having lived your life well. Lena didn’t sweat the small stuff. (Unless you count the time she discovered crow’s feet that she didn’t know she had, following a successful cataracts surgery!) She would sit at her kitchen table smiling and laughing at her grand kids and exchanging sarcastic banter with her grown children. There was always much “Tsking” and shaking her head at their latest antics, but you could read on her face how proud she was of all of them. She always made me feel that I was a part of her family and I came away from those visits relaxed and content…like everything was just right in the world. And sometimes, if I was lucky…I came away with a container of meatballs!
LENA’S MEATBALLS (makes about 24)
~5 slices of day old Italian bread
~1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
~1/2 Tablespoon salt
~1/2 Tablespoon pepper
~1/2 Tablespoon dried oregano
~1 1/2 Tablespoon dried parsley
~1/2 Tablespoon garlic powder
~1 1/2 lbs. mixed ground meat (80% beef, 15% pork, 5% veal…if you live in Wegmans Land…they have this mix already packaged)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Soak bread briefly in water in a large bowl, drain the water and thoroughly wring out the bread. Tear the soaked bread into pieces.
3. Add the eggs, beat the eggs and bread together until fully combined.
4. Add the cheese, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley and garlic powder. Mix with a fork until combined.
5. Add the ground meat and work with your hands until uniform. Don’t overwork.
6. Form the meatballs and place on an oiled baking sheet.
7. Bake in the oven about 8 minutes until browned on the pan side, carefully turn the meatballs over and bake about 6 more minutes. (Note: my oven needed about 10 minutes on each side)
8. Heat the meatballs in sauce before serving.
A special thank you to Barb’s husband, Dwight, who carefully translated the meatball recipe into a written form so it could be shared!